I am about three months from the deadline of my first book-length manuscript. What never felt like an expanse of time, but at least seemed “down the road a-ways,” is now three steps from a wall I’m walking into. Depending on the day, that wall is either pillowy or solid brick.
Meanwhile, life still is happening. My family of seven still must function. My community still requires my engagement with it. My body still demands attention for maintaining its health. My teenagers still test my mental, emotional, and spiritual stamina every blessed day as they continue to exist in all their teenage-ness.
Oh, and my regular writing commitments haven’t gone away.
One thing I’m learning through this book-writing process is how critically important the work of pouring into my creative-self is, especially as the creativity seems to be flooding out faster than I can take it in. There is a level of stamina building, to be sure. Sitting down to work every day whether I “feel” like it or not. Fortunately, my life has provided me endless opportunities to practice acting responsibly no matter my feelings.
But sometimes my stamina is to my detriment. I often call it a Midwestern thing: the “pulling oneself up by the bootstraps” and the “suck-it-up” virtues. But maybe it’s a growing-up-on-a-farm thing. It’s definitely a military thing. Whatever kind of “thing” it is, I have it in spades.
Which is why filling my creative cup is so difficult. It requires play. But playing feels like frivolity. And I don’t engage in frivolities.
Here again, it’s a good thing how I “feel” isn’t to be heeded. When I look up synonyms to frivolity, I see: fribble, superficiality, foolishness, and shallowness. But I also see gaiety, lightheartedness, and zaniness.
I could use some zaniness (not the same as craziness) in my life. Lightheartedness and gaiety, too.
My dear writing pal, Cynthia Beach, calls this kind of playing “creative soul care.” In her new book, Creative Juices, on writing and the writing life, Cynthia addresses the importance of play and keeping our “creative arteries” healthy right up front.
“You and I have creative arteries as assuredly as we have physical arteries,” writes Cynthia. “Like our physical arteries, these creative arteries can be healthy and strong, or they can be weakened and diseased. We decide the health of our creative arteries. Our habits, choices and self-talk can cause peripheral artery disease (PAD) in our creative souls.” (Creative Juices, p. 7)
I could also use some time to “consider the lilies,” as Jesus says to his followers in Matthew 6. Artist, Makoto Fujimura, expressed an especially poignant understanding of Christ’s command, in his commencement address this spring at Judson University. Makoto likened the act of considering the lilies to making space in one’s life to create, despite being afraid, despite the surrounding scarcity; and thus, living into the “renewed, sanctified imagination,” that God has desired for us from the beginning of Creation.
Today I began a three-day a writing retreat. A real one. Not the kind where I’m at some sports camp with a kid for two or three days and I “retreat” to write in-between drop off and pick up times. It’s a short retreat, but I’m glad for the time away. I hope to get a good amount of writing done.
But I also hope to play. Take time for some creative soul care. Paddle board. Snap lots of nature pics (this, I’ve discovered is one of my favorite ‘frivolous’ things to do). Go for a run in a new place (my longtime passion I’m discovering fresh again—only this time I’m praying I don’t choke it with self-aggrandizing goals).
I also hope to “consider the lilies.” Sit on the dock in one of the old, white painted Adirondack chairs, and watch the ducks, song birds, jumping fish, and turtles. Read poetry.
Who knows. Maybe I’ll even write some, too.
(A quick P.S: I’m pretty jazzed about my friend, Cynthia’s book, so stay tuned for more blog posts that focus exclusively on Creative Juices)
Copyright 2019 by Shari L. Dragovich